Movie Review: ‘Birdman’ entertains with humor and visuals

Katie Madden
Managing Editor

With masterful cinematography, sharp dialogue and a lot of heart behind the blackness, “Birdman” or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a dark, daring and entertaining ride to kick off the much anticipated Oscar season.

Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) is an aging and long dormant actor best known for his portrayal of the wildly popular superhero Birdman in the early 1990s.

The film follows Riggan as he attempts to make a comeback directing and starring in a Broadway production while he deals with Sam, his fresh from rehab daughter (played by Emma Stone), and the egotistical and hotheaded theater actor, Mike Shiner (played by Edward Norton), all while combating his inner demon – Birdman.

The film quite literally leads the audience behind and between the scenes of the dazzling and the dreary parts of the Broadway stage.

Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu imbues viewers with the thrill of the lights but the absurdity of the spectacle. His clever writing managed to not take itself too seriously, yet it took the needs of the audience very seriously.

Scenes that should be awkward or even difficult to watch had a kind of brutally earnest humor that made the laughs always come with ease.

The director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, best known for his astounding and Academy Award Winning work in “Gravity” last year, engages his super heroic talent again.

Besides the use of a few clever camera tricks and incredible editing, there are clearly many scenes that last for several minutes without a single cut.

The camera’s constant movement keeps the viewer interested with the ever-changing perspectives.

While this is a tactic frequently used by Lubezki and other cinematographers, “Bird­man’s” style is in an entirely different league making it an absolutely exhilarating watch.

While the film plays with ideas of overcoming as well as succumbing to ego, this obvious reflection of Keaton’s career fall from playing Batman to near oblivion manages to be anything but narcissistic or self-serving for the revered actor.

Many left the theater thinking, “Oh Michael, we really missed you!”

The actors give career defining performances, admirably delivering lengthy monologues and stretches of difficult dialogue without the safety of do-overs.

It is a performance in the most traditional sense and they all nail it.

Perhaps most importantly, the film trusts the audience. There is not an over-abundance of explanation of the plot’s most curious elements yet the film does not confuse or frustratingly confound.

It simply leaves viewers with the ability to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Despite my praise for this film, I have to make note of a glaring problem the film has- one that is sadly more than noticeable in most films- a major lack of diversity.

Although the film was directed, written and produced by a Mexican filmmaker and the cinematographer is also Mexican, the faces on the screen were overwhelmingly white.

Also, with the exception of one mostly insignificant scene, the film features all straight characters as well.

However, the recognition and accolades this great work could produce for Mexican filmmakers is also a good step in the direction of progress and representation in film.

Simply put, “Birdman” is funny, wildly entertaining, and often jaw droppingly visually beautiful.

It is not a film to be missed this fall.

Katie Madden can be reached at

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